Thursday, February 26, 2015

Giraffas Brazilian Kitchen & Grill

Last night, we had dinner at Giraffas Brazilian Kitchen & Grill in Mills Park on North Mills Avenue.  Giraffas also has a restaurant on International Drive, and locations throughout Florida.

Giraffas is a fast-casual restaurant that features Brazilian cuisine with a touch of American favorites.  The employee I spoke to told me that all of their salads, and everything from the grill was gluten free.  The only food item she mentioned having gluten were the buns for the burgers, but I did not ask about desserts.  

We started our meal at Giraffas with pao de queijos - warm Brazilian cheese bread made with tapioca flour.  They come in orders of two for $1.  My whole family enjoyed them, and they reminded me of Brazi Bites.  

We ordered four entrees from the grill, which all came with a sauce and three sides.  My favorite was the picanha, a top sirloin cap steak with a thin layer of fat down the side to add extra juiciness.  The steak was tender, and so delicious dipped in chimichurri sauce.  The portion was large, with two pieces of steak, making it easy for my husband and I to share.  For sides, I chose grilled vegetables, mashed potatoes, and brown rice.  I loved the grilled vegetables with the exception of the onion, which was too strong.  I enjoyed my brown rice with a little chimichurri sauce on top, but thought the mashed potatoes were a little odd tasting.  They weren't bad, but I wouldn't order them again.  My girls ate the mashed potatoes I left in my bowl, and thought they were good.  

My husband and I also shared a salmon filet with a side of garlic butter.  I thought the salmon was prepared well, and I loved the garlic butter with fresh herbs and lime.  My husband enjoyed all of his sides - grilled veggies, black-eyed peas (chilled black-eyed peas & cilantro salad), and farofa (toasted manioc flour with scrambled egg, bacon, sauteed onions, green olives & parsley).  

My daughters shared an order of chicken breast filet with black beans simmered in sauteed garlic and bacon, and a double side of white rice.  I tasted their chicken, which was perfectly cooked, and really delicious dipped in garlic butter.  

Nina, our international student, loved her meal of baby back ribs with sides of black beans, mashed potatoes, and grilled vegetables.

Everyone enjoyed their meals so much, we would definitely go back to Giraffas.  The only thing that makes me a little uncomfortable is that they don't have nutritional information on their website or have a gluten free menu.  I did exchange some tweets with Giraffas about gluten free options, and the employee I spoke to, who I assume was their manager, was super knowledgeable.

You can view Giraffas menu on their website here.

What are your favorite gluten free menu items at Giraffas?  

Monday, February 23, 2015

Wolfgang Puck Express - Downtown Disney

Yesterday, we had lunch at Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney.  Before we moved to Orlando, we dined at Wolfgang Puck Express every year during our annual trip to Disney World.  

Wolfgang Puck Express is a quick service restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and features Wolfgang's most popular dishes.  You can view their full menu here.   

The manager I spoke to said they had four gluten free options - the half rotisserie chicken, oven roasted salmon, and the Greek or Caesar salads with or without chicken.  

I have had the chicken with mashed potatoes, and the Greek salad with chicken in the past, so I decided to try the salmon.  I do recommend both the rotisserie chicken and the Greek salad, having enjoyed them on previous visits.  

After we paid for our meal, I noticed that our receipt did not have an allergy designation next to my dish,  so I spoke to one of the servers running food, who then talked to the chefs for me.   I wanted to make sure that there weren't cross contamination issues with my food, because the manager left before I ordered.  When my salmon was delivered, I was told that it was an allergy order, which made me feel better about the safety of my food.  

The oven roasted salmon is served with cauliflower puree, marinated tomatoes, and broccolini.  After my dish was delivered, I noticed that the cauliflower puree was missing, but our server quickly brought me a dish of it, and double-checked with the manager to make sure that it was gluten free.  

Salmon is my favorite fish, and Wolfgang Puck Express did not disappoint.  My fish was nicely seasoned, cooked to perfection, and well paired with the sides.  I loved the broccolini and tomatoes, and the cauliflower puree was nice and creamy.

I have always enjoyed my meals at Wolfgang Puck Express, but it makes me a little nervous when my food is not marked as an allergy order.  I took care of informing the chefs that I needed a gluten free meal, safe from cross contamination.  If I had not spoken to a server,  the chefs would have had no way of knowing that I had any special dietary needs, because the ticket they received, which the server showed me, said nothing.

What are your favorite gluten free dishes at Wolfgang Puck Express?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC - Downtown Disney

If you have missed BabyCakes, you will be happy to know that Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC opened today in Downtown Disney.  It is located near Raglan Road, one of my favorite restaurants for gluten free dining at Disney World.  

Everything at Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC is gluten, dairy, egg, soy, and refined sugar free.  Their baked goods are certified kosher, parve, and vegan, and are sweetened with unprocessed, evaporated cane juice, or agave nectar.   

Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC does use coconut oil, and Bob's Red Mill flours (brown rice flour or a garbanzo/fava bean mix), which are packaged on the same equipment as soy, and hazelnut and almond flours.  None of their vendors use peanuts on their equipment, so their baked goods are safe for people with peanut allergies.

Erin McKenna, author of BabyCakes, BabyCakes Covers the Classics, and Bread & Butter, was on hand for the grand opening of her new bakery, which also has stores in New York City and Los Angeles.   

The first display case we came to was filled with an array of gluten free cupcakes. 

Today, they had banana, vanilla, vanilla with lemon, blondie, and agave-sweetened chocolate.  

They also had french toastie cupcakes, an old favorite of mine from their BabyCakes days.

If you buy cupcakes, be sure to keep them cool or refrigerated, which can be hard to do when you are walking around Orlando in the summer.  

My daughter Emma chose a mocha brownie cupcake, which she said was her favorite treat out of all the baked goods we tried.  

Erin told me it is a larger version of the mini brownie cupcake I had a few weeks ago and loved.  Today, they were also selling a brownie cupcake with mint frosting.  The mini brownie cupcakes are available at the BoardWalk Bakery, Landscape of Flavors at Disney's Art of Animation Resort, Everything Pop at Disney's Pop Century Resort, The Mara at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, and the Beach Club Marketplace at Disney's Beach Club Resort.  

My daughter Katie chose a brownie square, which was her favorite sweet treat of the day.  I tried the brownie square and the mocha brownie cupcake, and was really impressed with both of them.  

We also bought cinnamon sugar toastie, a caramel apple scone, coffee cake, and a second mocha brownie cupcake.  The cinnamon sugar toastie, which had some kind of berry in it, was amazing, and I will be ordering it again when we return.  The caramel apple scone was good, but not as sweet as I expected.  The coffee cake was as moist as the rest of our baked goods, and had me wishing I had bought a piece of the chocolate crumb cake as well.  

We came home with a piece of focaccia, which was sampled as soon as we walked in the door.  It was definitely some of the best gluten free bread I have had since my celiac diagnosis almost 7 years ago.  It was moist, not crumbly, and had a subtle taste of rosemary.  I might be visiting Erin McKenna's Bakery again later this week, so I can buy more of this incredible bread, and put it to the freezer test.  I would love to be able to defrost a couple of pieces of focaccia when I make pasta, or make a Caprese panini with it.  

I regretted not coming home with bagels, which I loved back in the days of BabyCakes.  They are great toasted and served with whipped butter.  

Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC was also selling cinnamon rolls, lemon teacake, chocolate chip cookies, banana and banana chocolate chip loaves, and vegetable biscuits.  

Cinnamon sugar (my favorite), chocolate dipped, salted caramel, vanilla sprinkle, samoa, and cookies & cream donuts were available as well.  

February 26, 2015 Update

I stopped at Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC at Downtown Disney today to buy some focaccia to make panini, but was told that they only make focaccia on the weekend.  I ended up buying some plain bagels instead, freezing a couple, and making garlic bread with the others.  I don't recommend them for garlic bread, because they are a little bit sweet, but they are very good toasted with some whipped butter.  The bagels have a great texture, taste, and chew.  

I also purchased some mini brownies, lemon teacake, and cinnamon sugar toastie.  I really liked the lemon teacake and the mini brownies, but the cinnamon sugar toastie is still my favorite.  My daughters devoured half of my lemon teacake, and told me they thought it was delicious.  

You can read more about Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC on their website, and follow the Downtown Disney store on Twitter.

What are your favorite gluten free baked goods at Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC?  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cup4Cup Gluten Free Wholesome Vanilla Cake Mix

On Friday night, my husband and I stopped at the Williams-Sonoma in Winter Park, where I bought Cup4Cup Wholesome Vanilla Cake Mix.  Until Friday, I didn't even know this product existed.  Being a huge fan of Cup4Cup, I had to try it, even though I definitely prefer chocolate or red velvet cupcakes.  

The mix is gluten free, dairy free, and non-GMO.  It is made with Wholesome Cup4Cup Flour, a high fiber blend, which I have used to make Banana Muffins and Mexican Chocolate Banana Muffins.  Cup4Cup Wholesome Flour contains brown rice flour, white rice flour, ground golden flaxseed, rice bran, and xanthan gum.  The vanilla cake mix also contains sugar, baking powder, natural vanilla flavor, baking soda, and salt.  The only allergen warning is that it is processed in a facility that also processes milk.  

You can make two 8" rounds or 18 -24 cupcakes with Cup4Cup's vanilla cake mix.  The directions are very simple - whisk together 4 large eggs, 1 cup of milk or dairy alternative, and 3/4 cup of oil (canola or coconut oil); add the pouch of cake mix, and whisk until well incorporated.  I used lowfat milk and Spectrum organic canola oil, and decided to make 18 cupcakes, which baked in 18 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  

I allowed them to cool in my cupcake pans before frosting them with a vanilla buttercream that I added some crushed raspberries to.  For the vanilla buttercream, I mixed 3 cups of powdered sugar with 1 stick of unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons of milk, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a pinch of kosher salt.  I beat the ingredients in my mixer, using my flat beater, for about 3 minutes, until the frosting was fluffy.  This frosting recipe is from the back of a discontinued gluten free vanilla cupcake mix from Williams-Sonoma.  I stirred in some crushed raspberries before frosting my cupcakes last night.  My whole family was impressed by the cake mix, which made moist and flavorful cupcakes, and they made for a fun dessert on Fat Tuesday.  

I wasn't initially crazy about my frosting choice, but it was so much better today after I allowed it to set in the refrigerator.  I always store leftover cupcakes in the fridge in an airtight container.  Sometimes I allow them to come to room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving, but I ate one right out of the fridge today for lunch, and it was just perfect.  The frosting had set nicely, and the cake was still moist, even though it was cold.  Next time, I am thinking about making chocolate ganache to go with my cupcakes.

Both my husband and I thought the unfrosted cupcakes tasted a little bit like muffins, because of the texture the wholesome flour lends to the cake mix.  Overall, we were really impressed by Cup4Cup's Wholesome Vanilla Cake Mix, and would buy it again.  The mix can be purchased locally at the Williams-Sonoma stores in Winter Park or the Mall at Millenia, or it can be ordered online here.

What are your favorite Cup4Cup products?